It’s Memorial Day – a good time to discuss patriotism in children. How do deep feelings of love of country take root? Why is it important to have them? Is it important?
Memorial Day means different things to different people – a day off from work, the official beginning of summer, a parade in cities and towns, a chance to remember all those who have died, military or otherwise, a long weekend, a travel time to BBQ with friends and family, a shopping excursion with lots of sales. The formal national holiday was started to honor those who fought and died in service for our country, a true military sentiment, with the other listed associations developed over time.
When I was growing up, Memorial Day weekend meant a trip to the family graves to plan flowers, clip the grass and beautify the final resting place of our departed ancestors. Also, it was a chance to actually think about those dearly departed at a dedicated time, with a prayer graveside.
Patriotism was instilled in me by the rote recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance daily in school for years. The words dully stated with my hand over my heart becoming a deeply ingrained habit. Without knowing why the nation was “invisible” or understanding the concept behind most of the words (“with liberty and justice for all” during a time of civil rights) I did my duty every morning in front of the flag for years. That much practice pounded in respect for the country, embodied by the stars and stripes – stand up straight while pledging, don’t ever let the flag touch the ground, the US flag must fly higher than any other flag.
But it was hearing the national anthem played over and over through the years that really locked in the patriotism. Who can hear the anthem being played at an Olympic awards ceremony and not swell with pride? Who can see a flag waving when there is a national disaster and not instantly bond with our fellow Americans in their grief?
Patriotism is important as part of our identity, extended beyond our personal lives to our country, our homeland, our place of citizenship. It defines who we are with our pride of achievement, our self-esteem, our national confidence. Without it, if we are disenfranchised by the way things are going, we lose much. Some even turn radical, aligning with other destructive causes.
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: Children who do not have something positive to believe in will find something else to fill the void. There are so many unproductive or worse choices out there. It is a parent’s job to help them make healthy choices in all areas of life. One way is encourage patriotism is not to speak despairingly about the country. The current politicians may be an issue for you, but the country as a whole is unarguably the best country in the world to live in.